hoary puccoon

(Lithospermum canescens)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

hoary puccoon


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed






Dry to moderate moisture. Prairies, open woods, roadsides. Seldom in sandy soil.


April to June

Flower Color

Orange to light golden yellow


4 to 18



This is a 4 to 18 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises on 1 to 5 stems from a thick, red taproot.

The stems are erect and usually unbranched, though sometimes branched near the top. They are densely covered with soft, ascending to spreading, sometimes somewhat tangled hairs.

The leaves are alternate, stalkless, relatively thick, lance-shaped to narrowly oblong, ¾ to 2 long, and to ½ wide. There are usually less than 25 leaves below the inflorescence. They are angled or narrowly rounded at the base and bluntly pointed at the tip. Sometimes there is a minute, sharp point at the tip. There is a single prominent vein and no noticeable lateral veins. The upper and lower surfaces are grayish-green and are densely covered with short, fine, loosely ascending to appressed hairs. There are small, elevated, blister-like elevations (pustules) at the base of the hairs on the leaves, though this may not be apparent without a hand lens. The margins are untoothed and have a fringe of soft hairs.

The inflorescence is usually 1 to 3 leafy, branched, flower clusters at the end of the stem. Occasionally a plant will produce 1 or 2 additional flowering branches after the first flowering branches have gone to seed. The flowers at the top bloom first, the lateral flowers progressively later. The clusters are dense at first, elongate as the lateral flowers bloom, eventually becoming coiled and 1 to 4 long.

The flowers are to ½ wide and funnel-shaped. The sepals are fused at the base into a short, cup-like structure (calyx) then separated into 5 linear, flat, to ¼ long lobes. The 5 petals are orange to yellow. They are fused at the base into a ¼ to long floral tube, then separated into 5 spreading, to wide lobes. The lobes are not fringed. There are 5 stamens. The flowers are subtended by bracts that are much longer than the calyx. The flowers have a sweet scent. According to most sources, including Yatskievych & Steyermark and Gleason & Cronquist, there are no closed, self-fertilizing (cleistogamous) flowers. A recent (2012), ongoing study suggests that this may not always be the case.

The fruits are 1 to 4 egg-shaped, long, cream-colored, smooth, shiny, hard nutlets. Each nutlet contains 1 seed.


Fringed puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) leaves are roughly hairy, not densely, softly hairy. The hairs on the stem and leaves are pustule-based, though this may not be apparent without a hand lens. The inflorescence does not elongate as the season progresses. The floral tube is much longer, ¾ to 2 long. In the late spring and summer it becomes much branched with cleistogamous flowers in the leaf axils of the new branches. The fruit is white, not cream-colored.

Hairy puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense var. croceum) often rises on 12 or more stems. The stems are leafier. The leaves are roughly hairy, not densely, softly hairy. The hairs on the stem and leaves are pustule-based, though this may not be apparent without a hand lens. The inflorescence eventually becomes much longer, 2 to 10 long. The flowers are larger, ½ to 1 wide. The calyx lobes are longer, ¼ to ½ long when the plant is in full flower. The floral tube is longer, 9 16 to 1 long. The fruit is white, not cream-colored.

Distribution Distribution Map   Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28.





Boraginaceae (borage)





Batschia canescens


hoary gromwell

hoary puccoon

Indian paint













The upper angle where the leaf stalk meets the stem.



The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube.



Automatically self-pollinating. Refers to bud-like flowers that do not open but automatically self-pollinate, or to plants with such flowers.



Long, straight, and narrow, with more or less parallel sides, like a blade of grass.



Small, elevated, blister-like elevations, usually at the base of hairs.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.

Larger, Lighter, Longer

For a convenient mnemonic to distinguish between hairy puccoon and hoary puccoon in the field, think “Larger, Lighter, Longer." Hairy puccoon has larger petals that are slightly but noticeably lighter in color and have longer floral tubes.









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Floral Tube

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